- Homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) are individuals inspired—as opposed to directed—by a foreign terrorist organization, and radicalized in the countries in which they are born, raised, or reside.
- While international terrorist organizations have encouraged HVEs to carry out attacks, in many instances personal grievances influence their ideology, target selection, and violent acts.
- HVEs can be radicalized through posts on social media—including Facebook, YouTube, and Telegram—that encourage attacks in the West or support for terrorists overseas.
- Some HVEs draw inspiration from multiple terrorist organizations and adhere to Salafi-jihadism, an extremist interpretation of Islam.
Threat to New Jersey: High
HVEs pose the greatest threat to New Jersey and will continue operating within the State and surrounding region, while reaching out to like-minded individuals online. From 2015-17, 33 HVEs were arrested in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, primarily for providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations, and for conducting five attacks and plotting seven others.
In 2017, eight of the nation’s 35 HVE arrests were in New Jersey and New York. Additionally, of the eight HVE attacks nationwide, two occurred in New York City, killing eight people and injuring 16.
In October 2017, authorities arrested New Jersey resident and ISIS sympathizer Sayfullo Saipov after he drove a rented pickup truck down a bike path in lower Manhattan, killing eight and injuring 11. Eight months earlier, authorities arrested Gregory Lepsky of Point Pleasant Borough (Ocean County) for plotting to build a pressure-cooker bomb and detonate it in New York City in support of ISIS.
In March 2017, authorities arrested Elvis Redzepagic—a Nusrah Front and ISIS sympathizer from New York—who “made numerous attempts to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad.” Redzepagic reached out to sympathizers online after seeing images of his cousin fighting in Syria. Redzepagic also exchanged Facebook messages with an unidentified individual, stating, “I read alot about jihad … and shariah law… its self explanatory you fight for the sake of God.”
- Since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, approximately 295 Americans—130 of whom have been arrested—either traveled or attempted to travel to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside foreign terrorist organizations, including ISIS.
- In 2014, ISIS began directing followers to conduct low-level unsophisticated attacks. After heavily favoring explosives from 2010-13, HVEs are now executing more successful small-scale attacks and using readily available weapons, such as vehicles, firearms, and knives.